Monkey Island 2 Is Home to One of Gaming's Most Ridiculously Unsolvable Puzzles

APR 11, 2022

Despite their superficial simplicity, the Monkey Island games are far from easy. While it may strike many point-and-click adventure novices as odd that these predominantly two-dimensional affairs could be in any way challenging when compared to modern marathons like Elden Ring and Cuphead, the obscure, tangential and occasionally bizarre paths to progress can leave many a head scratched in angry frustration. With a new game finally coming into view, fans of the original series will hope for more brain-stretching puzzles as they finally return to the fabled Caribbean isle.

The first Monkey Island was a tricky but logical affair -- a game that rewarded sensible, rational thought in order to figure out the next steps a player should take to progress with the title's delightful narrative. The sequel, LeChuck's Revenge, was a tougher test -- a game that often rewarded a little more lateral, outside-the-box thought processes to achieve success. Both games are bona fide classics, but as is typical of the genre, even the best point-and-click titles can become immensely frustrating when the path to progress is made maddeningly obscure.

In no instance is this more apparent than in the infamous "monkey wrench" puzzle from LeChuck's Revenge. Here, hero Guybrush Threepwood must switch off a pump that is fueling a manually constructed waterfall to progress. The pump is within view and accessible, yet cannot be turned, and no inputs, items or logical combinations of the latter can budge the stubborn mechanism. For all the scouring a player may do on Phatt Island, there seems to be no appropriate tool to get the pump to stop.

It turns out, however, that a tool isn't exactly what players require. Instead, Guybrush must go back to a bar known as the Bloody Lipp on Scabb Island, where they will find, naturally, a piano-playing monkey. Atop the piano is a metronome, and via a pretty much unfeasible step in logic, players must take a banana and, rather than give it to the musical simian, place it on the metronome. In doing so, the monkey will become hypnotized, transfixed by the fruit waving back and forth now on the mechanical timekeeper. The monkey, named Jojo, can then simply be picked up and put in Guybrush's inventory.

One must then take Jojo back to the waterfall and "use" him with the pump, the joke being that Guybrush needed to use a "monkey wrench" in order to crank the mechanism, a detail never revealed or even hinted at upon realizing that the pump won't budge in the first place. The play on words may be obscure even for American audiences, but for Brits and many non-American players, the leap of logic is even more impossible considering that most Old World English speakers would refer to the tool as a spanner.

Given the almost unfathomable degree of lateral thinking required to realize that a monkey would have to be hypnotized to create a stiffened form of "monkey wrench," the pump sequence from LeChuck’s Revenge now lives in infamy as one of gaming's most challenging puzzles. Modern gamers can simply consult the internet to get through any hindrance (if the in-game hints won't suffice), but players back in the early '90s were simply left baffled by a problem to which there was seemingly no solution. Point-and-click games may appear simple, but the puzzles can be much more daunting than one might suspect.

The excitement leading up to the next release in the Monkey Island series is understandably palpable. Many are heralding the return to the Caribbean as having the potential to reinvigorate the point-and-click adventure genre for a new generation of gamers. While the next installment should certainly learn from its predecessors' capacity for mindbogglingly devious puzzles and structural layouts, a repeat of impenetrable conundrums such as Guybrush's infamous monkey wrench riddle may not be quite so welcome.

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